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Coping with Mental Health Concerns like Anxiety and Depression or Feeling Stuck with any Negative State

Have you been feeling out of sorts lately? You are not alone, and it is not your fault. The world has been out of sorts. States like Depression, Anxiety, and just about any state a person doesn’t like and feels stuck; they all react positively to maintaining a healthy routine, a healthy state of mind, and healthy self-care. When these factors are a challenge, it makes sense that we emotionally feel that challenge. You may be feeling a lot of things like sadness, frustration, work, or self-blame; these are normal feelings in response to the trauma of COVID-19.

One of the dirtiest tricks that Depression and Anxiety play is to mess with your thinking. These tricks can lead to:

  • Self-blame
  • Thinking everything is your fault
  • Thinking these things happened because of who you are as a person
  • Thinking things are always going to be like this
  • Getting stuck in a thinking loop of the same (often negative) ideas

At this point, you would probably expect that I would try to talk you out of thinking these things. Well, I am not going to do that. Why, you ask? Depression and Anxiety are taking advantage of one of your strengths as a Purdue University Student: Your Thinking Ability!!! Given that you are a smart person, you are likely able to make a logical argument for these thoughts, and end up in a vicious cycle of negative thinking. So, giving you anything else to think about, may actually make things feel worse! On the other hand, you can also likely find some logical arguments against these thoughts, which is great, and can also be hard to listen to when the negative thoughts are so loud.

So what do we do instead? I want you to first make a distinction between thinking and noticing . Thinking is an act of trying to make sense of a thought and can lead to judging a thought as good or bad. Noticing is the act of acknowledging your thoughts in a non-judgmental way. Steve Hayes, creator of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy suggests that noticing a thought could be a simple act of saying to yourself, “I’m noticing a thought."

Next, I want you to practice noticing what things are going on right now by reading the statements that follow. Don’t think about them, reflect on them, or otherwise evaluate them.

Just notice the state of the world

The state you are in

That the world is out of balance

The skew of things toward:

(over)Thinking, Bad News, Stress

Could you notice the difference between thinking and noticing as you read the statements?

The main take away is that Depression, Anxiety, and other areas of stuckness are maintained by lack of balance, times when things are skewed, and times when things that usually make us feel good are not available. So, at times like this, one should do things to restore balance, or at least just something that feels positive. It is a good idea to focus on feeling positive in the present moment first, and not focus too much on overall change or ideas like ‘fixing’ things. Instead, notice the ways that things are out of balance, and do something that might help. It is ok if everything you try doesn’t help, but it is crucial at times like this that you keep trying. Below are some additional resources to continue your exploration of getting unstuck from negative emotions.

Andy O’Neall, Purdue Staff Therapist


Deep thanks to:

mayoclinic.org: Covid-19 and your mental health

contextualscience.org: How to manage anxious thinking in this time

npr.org: Illustrated guide for kids coping with COVID-19

virusanxiety.com: Virus anxiety

jackkornfield.com: Pandemic mindfulness resources

LA Times: Feeling depressed?

APA: Managing OCD?

University of Michigan: Navigating other diagnoses?